Almost ten years ago, in my secondary school in Ireland, I had a free class. The teacher supervising our free time, Mr. Muffet, asked us to take out a pen and a piece of paper and get started on the following task:
Write down three animal names in the following order:
- Your favorite animal
- An animal you’d prefer to have as a pet
- Your second favorite animal, either domesticated or wild
We were all bored anyway, so we gave it a go. While many of the lads in the class chose their favorite animal to be a tiger or lion, I just went with a monkey.
Next, for the animal I’d prefer to have as a pet, I’ve always wanted an Irish wolfhound. Yes, I know, the Irishman wants an “Irish” wolfhound. Sue me.
Finally, my second favorite animal, domesticated or wild, I went with a wolf.
We all thought it was a good bit of fun, and it was a good distraction from thinking about our impending exams that were coming soon. As we continued to get on like an episode of the In Betwneers together, one of us realized Mr. Muffet had added something to the blackboard, and it read:
- The third animal reflects how you see yourself
- The second animal shows how people see you
- The first animal describes who you really are
He blew our minds. It was the first time many of us became incredibly self-aware in a meaningful way. The only other times we’d all been made self-ware was when we did something cringe, which was all the rage when you’re a teenager.
So let’s recap my answers:
- The third animal reflects how you see yourself – Wolf
- The second animal shows how people see you – Irish Wolfhound
- The first animal describes who you really are – Monkey
Mr. Muffet then began to ask us what did the animals mean to us. He mentioned that in every society, every animal is given a different personification, and even on an individualistic basis, this can also be the case.
For me, I guess I always saw myself as being a lone wolf, but people saw me as a regular but loyal dog, but deep down inside, I was a cheeky monkey.
That was my first brush with self-awareness, and it taught me for the first time at 17 to be more critical of my self-perception, what I think others think of me, and what people actually think about me, because these are all usually different.
Self-Awareness and Nihao’s It Going?
Having a small but reasonably engaged following on Facebook, and to a lesser degree Instagram has made me more aware of two issues; my self-perception as someone with a following and realizing how I’m viewed externally. The HBR breaks this all down beautifully, albeit from a more business-esque perspective, but just bear with it.
- My Internal Self-awareness – How clearly I see my own values, passions, and aspirations fit my environment and reactions (which include my strengths and weaknesses, feelings, and behaviors) and the impact of what I do on others.
- My External Self-awareness – How clearly I understand how others view me in terms of my own values, passions, and aspirations and how they fit my environment and reactions (which include my strengths and weaknesses, feelings and behaviors) and how what I do can impact others.
Back when I simply posted blog articles, my following was less than 5% of what it is now. Despite that, I would still get a fair amount of hits to my page from both organic searches on Google and from shares on Facebook.
Now, however, the need for internal and external self-awareness is pretty essential. They both matter because, as many people have pointed out to me that although I do have a small fan page, my engagement and reach are proportionally very high. To give you an example of my reach, when my page had only 9,000 likes, I posted this meme:
This meme reached over 247,000 people in 1 week, with over 2,000+ likes and 872 shares. Taiwan news averages around 100,000 to 200,000 reach per week, depending on the news they publish, and I was able to reach more people with a bloody meme.
Likewise, my blog in the last two years had gotten over 200,000 hits, with the majority coming from organic searches.
In this regard, I’ve had to rethink what my values are and what impact I want to have.
“Stop the Rants and Stick to Making Memes”
A few weeks ago, as we entered the long-weekend, just as COVID-19 was starting to wear off, a lot of people decided, “maybe we should all go to the same place in southern Taiwan for a holiday and not observe social distancing.”
Well, I wrote a post which called people traveling south, “Selfish b*******.” Well, it annoyed a lot of people. If I could go back in time, I would’ve used more mature language, and explained my position. Instead, I let my emotions take over, and quite rightly, I came off as being an unfavorable person to many, while also entertaining many more.
I didn’t want to be told not to make rants, just like I didn’t want to be told to just stick with memes. Still, from similar reactions to my Taiwan’s fans about my criticisms of certain people in politics, and other issues, I can see my internal and external self-awareness just weren’t there.
With that said, If people had actually been tuned into the news of the massive crowds in Kenting, they might’ve seen why I was emotional. I did respond in a more courteous manner to some pretty equally emotional responses that were as emotional as my own post.
Learn to Be More Aware of What I Post and Why
I had one person write in that I shouldn’t focus so much attention on nightclubs giving foreigners differential treatment in terms of documentation needed to enter, and I should instead focus on migrant workers if I really cared about equality.
Well, I shared my blogs and posts about my support of migrant workers and ending the brokerage system, and how I’ve always supported blue-collar foreigner rights. Eventually, I talked personally to this person, and we understood each other’s points of view, and I invited him out for a pint.
Why? Because we all don’t have to agree. We don’t always have to argue needlessly to always be right about an issue. As such, I’m doing my best to take the time to imagine how my fans will perceive the content I create. This isn’t just to make sure I’m a sounding board for what they want, but to ensure that I’m not just making a controversial statement without explaining it.
If I wanted to be a sounding board, I’d just make anti-CCP and anti-KMT memes all day. I’m not about that. It’s fun, but there’s so much more I can do with my followers that could be meaningful.
Ultimately, what I’ve learned is that when someone comments something that irritates me, I try to hold off writing a comment. Hell, sometimes I write out a nasty comment and then read it. I suddenly realized, I “m being a bit of an “ass” and then take a more neutral and understanding approach.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Self-awareness and Nihao’s It Going?
In many ways, I’ve been lucky. Many people deserve to take my angry comments that are filled with emotion. You know the ones. The old white expats who rely on their wives for everything and dislike me because I probably actually give a damn about living in Taiwan. Those guys, the only self-awareness I give them, is the self-awareness to not engage with them and to just block them. They’re pests.
For others, I’ve learned that taking a light touch and engaging in conversation on diverging perspectives can be an enriching experience.
I’ve taken the time to realize that there are people that see me as an influencer, even if I hate to admit that. I’ve taken the time to realize that maybe some of the things I post can have a real-world effect on others.
It took me some time to relearn some self-awareness, but I have it back, and I’m glad I do. I met many of my most exciting and amazing friends by arguing with them. John, one of the founders at All Hands Taiwan, we met because we both disagreed about wages in Taiwan. We added each other, and despite not agreeing wholly, I could see he held many of my values and aspirations. This has been the case with many people, and they’ve always steered me away from being too emotional.
Again, if I wanted to rant on my personal Facebook page, who cares. Now that I have a following, ranting with madness without the method is idiotic. It destroys my bond with followers, makes me think I’m always right, and turns my page into a hostile place where being soundboard and living in bubbles is what matters more than open and free discussions.
I guess on certain topics, there is definitely an echo chamber, but I’m trying to not do that because challenging ourselves on issues is important.
That’s why I discuss how good Taiwan has been to me, while also counterpoint that Taiwan can do more for others like blue-collar foreigners.
That’s why I want to make you laugh but also think about some key issues that affect everyone on this beautiful island.
Making My Self-awareness Your Self-awareness
The final point of this rant is that by showing you that I want to challenge myself and listen to others, you should too. I don’t want to your echo chamber. If I wanted to do that, I could grow my following a lot faster.
But I don’t want to. What’s the point? Where’s the introspective? Where’s the meaning?
I enjoy making memes, but what I enjoy the most is seeing discussions and sharing experiences and knowledge.
With that said, I enjoy humor, and I’ll continue to bake it into what I do, but taking a look at what my page is and what it could be, I think I’ll continue to take a step back and see what I mean to you and myself, and take it from there.